Chapter 8 Monkeys

The huge monkey king looked at me, opened its mouth wide to show off its white fangs, and then made some threatening sounds as if it were warning us.

Lao Yang and I each picked up a piece of firewood burning at one end and waved them around with all our might, desperately trying to push back the monkeys that were rushing towards us. Some of them moved a little slower than the others and wound up with burned butts, the pain causing them to screech and flee far away.

But at the same time, there were a few clever monkeys who were sneaking closer to our equipment. By the time I finally noticed, it was already too late—a little monkey had grabbed some of the waterproof bags that Lao Yang hadn’t put back into his backpack yet. I knew the situation was bad as soon as I saw it so I rushed over to try and grab it, but as soon as I turned away, another monkey sprang up from behind me and tried to grab my equipment.

Fortunately, my bag was so heavy that it couldn’t drag it away despite making several attempts. It gave up on the idea once it discovered that it wouldn’t be able to drag it away easily, but then it switched tactics and put its hand inside my bag, trying to take out all the small things inside.

I was surprised at how skilled these monkeys’ actions were—it definitely wasn’t the first time that they had attacked humans like this. Although I knew that monkeys were clever, I always believed that there was a limit to how intelligent they could be. But now it seemed as if we couldn’t compare to them at all, at least when it came to stealing.

I was pulled from these distracting thoughts by the sight of the monkey pulling a package out of my bag. As soon as I realized that it was a pack of compressed biscuits, I knew that the situation wasn’t good. I gave up on the one I was chasing, rushed back to my equipment, and kicked the monkey away before picking up the package and quickly stuffing it back into my bag.

But at this time, a yellow light suddenly flashed before my eyes—the monkey king had jumped up and was reaching for my face with one claw. I had seen monkeys kill rabbits with their sharp claws so I knew I’d be disfigured if I was caught.

With no time to dodge in such a desperate situation, I swung my burning branch up to try and block it. My face was saved, but the monkey still managed to leave a long bloody scratch on my hand. I bared my teeth in pain as the burning branch slipped from my fingers.

After the monkey king fell to the ground, it quickly sprang back up as if nothing had happened. I didn’t have time to pick up my branch, so all I could do was hastily give it a hard kick. But to my surprise, it suddenly hugged my leg and bit down hard.

This time, the pain was so intense that I almost went crazy, but I retained my sanity and gave it a hard slap. It reacted quickly and released my leg to jump away, but I reached out blindly and somehow managed to grab its tail.

A monkey’s tail was very important. It was so important, in fact, that if the tail was ever caught during a fight, that was equivalent to being sentenced to death. The monkey king suddenly panicked, let out a fierce roar, and leaped right towards me.

I could feel the killing intent rising in my heart as I turned sideways to dodge its final blow, swung it by its tail, and slammed it onto the ground hard. I figured this monkey weighed at least twenty kilograms, so although the blow wasn’t fatal, it was enough to leave it stunned.

But the monkey was surprisingly resilient. Although I felt like I had used a killer move this time, it was like the monkey wasn’t affected at all. Instead, it gave a loud roar and moved to pounce on me again. I was at a total loss as to what to do now so I gave into instinct and hurriedly slammed it into a nearby tree. This time, I used too much force and lost my grip on its tail. The monkey went flying several meters away, rolled a few times, jumped up, and climbed up a tree.

Lao Yang was worried about the stolen bags and was still chasing the hungry monkeys that had just robbed us. But when those monkeys saw that their king had just suffered a loss, they knew that they couldn’t fight recklessly and so they ran away. But instead of running far, they stayed close and continued to act in a threatening manner. When Lao Yang went after one of them, the others followed him and threw stones at him, which made him very depressed. He chased the monkeys around and was soon out of breath before he even got to hit one.

I took in the whole situation and knew that things weren’t good. These wild monkeys were huge and agile, but the most troublesome thing was that they weren’t afraid of people at all. I already had a hard enough time dealing with that monkey king, but if two monkeys attacked me at the same time? I was afraid we’d suffer a huge loss. Plus, monkeys had good memories. I didn’t know what we did to provoke these macaques, but if we couldn’t solve this problem, then we wouldn’t have any peace in the future.

After chasing them for a long time, an exhausted and panting Lao Yang ran back to me and said, “N-no good. These monkeys run way too fast. Let’s not lower ourselves to their level and just go. We’ll consider those stolen things as a gift to mountain god here.”

There really wasn’t anything else we could do. After all, when it came to fighting over things in an old forest, we clearly had no chance of winning against a bunch of monkeys. And if this dragged on any longer, we may suffer other losses. Moreover, although some things had been stolen, they weren’t very important. Take, for example, our glow sticks. We could simply replace them with torches.

So I nodded and said to Lao Yang, “You’re right. We’re already deep in the mountains and our path will be more difficult to walk once it gets dark out. But you have to fucking keep an eye on your things. Don’t let the monkeys take your stuff again.”

When Lao Yang remembered what happened just now, his anger disappeared and he waved his hand dismissively at me, “Alright, alright. Stop mentioning it. Consider the issue settled.”

The two of us fastened our backpacks tightly, shouted loudly to drive the monkeys away, and continued walking down the narrow path. The monkeys saw us leaving and thought that we were running away, so they jumped on the mountain slopes on both sides and rushed after us, making mocking noises. Lao Yang became angry when he heard this and turned around with a curse, “You fucking macaques! Don’t be too proud of yourselves! If I get the chance to come back, I’ll catch and eat you all!”

When the monkeys saw him shouting, they became even more excited, especially the monkey king, whose whole body exuded the aura of one who had come out the victor. He followed us very closely the whole way, trying to pounce on me when I wasn’t paying attention. Lao Yang became even more fired up when he saw this and picked up a stone from the ground and threw it at the monkey king’s nose. It hit him so hard that he almost fell off the cliff.

To our surprise, those monkeys flew into a rage out of embarrassment and picked up various things from the ground and started throwing them at us. Soon, several stones and dirt clods hit me in the head. Fortunately, no one else was around to see this or I would have died from shame.

We ran wildly along the path for the amount of time it would take to smoke half a cigarette. When we finally stopped and I got a chance to look around, I found that we had completely entered Narrow Ravine. The wide “one-line sky” from before had now become a very narrow “one-line sky”. The distance between the two mountain walls was much narrower and there was a spine-chilling feeling that the walls were closing in on us. I couldn’t wait to get out of here.

It looks like Old Man Liu was right, I thought to myself. This mountain gap really might lead to the underworld.

As we continued forward, this feeling became even worse. If I hadn’t already asked about it beforehand, I probably would have thought that the two mountain walls would lead to a dead end instead of an exit on the other side.

At this time, I suddenly remembered what the old guide had said and that legend he had told us about.

I had heard many legends of ghost soldiers, and there were also a lot of boring people who had speculated on the subject. The more famous one was the Jingmacao Ravine in Yunnan. Legend had it that the southern barbarian king Meng Huo ordered someone to dig it.(1) The place still existed today, and during the rainy season, people said that they could even hear the sounds of weapons clashing in battle. The other famous one happened during the Tangshan earthquake,(2) and it was even more mysterious. It was said that many people saw a long caravan of horses carrying hundreds of thousands of heads out of Tangshan. This caravan ran into the People’s Liberation Army convoy that was heading into the city to provide disaster relief. There were many stories like that, but I couldn’t remember them all.

Lao Yang also told me some stories about this place, saying that although almost no one had walked through this ravine since it was formed, there wasn’t a single weed here, as if they had all been trampled by horses every day. A few years ago, some people wanted to build a scenic spot here, but it began to rain heavily as soon as the construction team arrived. The same thing happened every time they came, and the place was too far from the village, so the project leaders eventually had to give up.

We continued to go deeper into the ravine, walking until our senses gradually became numb. I didn’t know how long this mountain gap was, but the deeper we went, the darker it became and even the temperature dropped. The whole atmosphere was gloomy, and there was a strange feeling that we were being watched. I didn’t know when it happened, but the monkeys had finally stopped following us. The whole mountain gap suddenly seemed very quiet and a little scary, with only the whistling sound of the wind and some other strange sounds we couldn’t identify filling the silence. This kind of setting had us both feeling very uneasy.

Lao Yang and I took turns asking each other brain teasers to divert our attention from the strange atmosphere in this mountain gap. Even so, I couldn’t shake the uneasy feeling in my heart, which became more and more intense as we went deeper and deeper into the gap. There were even a few times when I thought that the thin sliver of sky above us might disappear at any time, leaving us trapped inside this dark mountain forever.

As these kinds of thoughts were running wildly through my head, I lost track of how long we had been walking. Lao Yang had been in the lead the whole time but then he suddenly came to an abrupt stop. I didn’t have time to react and ended up bumping into his back so hard that I became a little annoyed. “What’s wrong?” I asked him. “If you’re going to stop, give a warning first. Don’t just stop without saying anything.”

He turned to look at me, and I found that his face was pale and his lips were trembling. After trying to speak for a long time, he finally stammered, “O-Old Wu, th-there’s a person in fr-front—”

I stared blankly at him for a while, wondering what he meant when he said that there was a “person”. This place was at least more than forty kilometers from the nearest village, so how could someone be here? I quickly peeked over his shoulder and immediately felt my scalp go numb and my mind buzz. It was so shocking that I nearly bit my tongue and fell over.

As it turned out, in the shadow of the mountain gap in front of us, there really was a human-shaped thing. Its face was hidden in the dark shadows, but it was looking at us without moving.

<Chapter 7><Table of Contents><Chapter 9>


TN Notes:

(1) Only result I could find in English for the Jingmacao Ravine was here (95% sure it’s an MTL and the page is covered in ads) but here’s the Baidu version. Meng Huo was a local leader in the Nanzhong region in the state of Shu Han during the Three Kingdoms period of China. He was popularly depicted as a local leader representing the gentries of the Nanzhong region, but some historians doubt his historical existence. Meng Huo’s popular image comes from the novel “Romance of the Three Kingdoms”, which portrays him as a southern barbarian tribal leader.

(2) Tangshan earthquake happened in 1976. It was the deadliest earthquake in China and among the top disasters by death toll. The maximum intensity of the earthquake was XI (Extreme) on the Mercalli scale. In minutes, 85 percent of the buildings in Tangshan collapsed or were rendered unusable, all services failed, and most of the highway and railway bridges collapsed or were seriously damaged. More info here.

7 thoughts on “Chapter 8 Monkeys

  1. Thank you for the chapter! Ever since I read Heavenly Palace in the Clouds I’ve been kind of afraid of monkeys (I even had a nightmare about it) and this book didn’t help!
    So far I think this episode differs the most from licensed version

    Liked by 3 people

  2. When Wu Xie was fighting the king of the monkeys, I imagined Wang family instead of that monkey. They shouldn’t mess with him.
    It is interesting. Perhaps the combination of Jingmancao village and theories about it with those musical instruments discovered from the tombs is the source of inspiration for the sound of providence.
    I was curious about this village and found the following site that had the same information that you gave from that site and it had a good translation. (It is weird; they have similar background.) Here is the link. (I hope the link don’t pop up as a whole page.)


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